In a rock-bottom Benevento side, 18-year-old Enrico Brignola has been given a chance to shine. The Benevento youth academy product has made eight appearances for ‘Le Streghe‘ this season and has scored twice while assisting once in those appearances. While that definitely doesn’t seem like a lot, in a side that has only scored 18 times this league campaign, it’s a welcome sight.
Enrico Brignola was born just one hour away from Benevento in the city of Caserta. He eventually found his way into Benevento’s primavera team and began his career with the Campanian side. The Italian appeared for the youth team 30 times, scoring nine and assisting once during his stint. In 2015 he joined Roma’s U17 side on loan and continued his development as a player. Even in a more competitive youth system, Brignola managed to find the back of the net with six goals during his time in Italy’s capital before returning back to Benevento a year later with the senior team.
After going back and forth between the U19 squad and senior team, Enrico finally made his debut in 1-1 draw with Latin during the 2016/17 Serie B season. Unfortunately, though, it would be Brignola’s only appearance for Benevento until August of 2017, when he had a short run out in a 4-0 loss to Perugia in the Coppa Italia. In between those appearances, the young forward would continue to train with the senior team, but he would not see the field as he spent most of his time on the bench.
In December of 2017, Brignola would finally make his Serie A debut after seeing his team lose all 15 of their first 15 games of the season. Down 2-1 to Milan at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito, Roberto De Zerbi brought on the youngster in the hopes of scoring an equalizer. While he didn’t score, the teenager helped his side to earn their first ever point in the top flight.
Benevento’s last match of 2017 saw Brignola start for the Witches and contribute to their first ever Serie A win. Impressed by the 18-year-old, De Zerbi decided to start the winger again in their match against Sampdoria. In addition to helping his team to a 3-2 win, Brignola also came away with his first goal for the club. Halfway through the four minutes of stoppage time, Massimo Coda played the ball into the box where an unmarked Brignola finished it to extend the home side’s lead to 3-1.
Following mediocre performances against Bologna and Napoli, Enrico would go on to have his best match of the season against the side he once played for during his youth career. In a 5-2 loss to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, Brignola was directly involved in both of Benevento’s goals, first assisting Guilherme to give his side a surprise lead.
After going down 4-1, the youngster gave the Benevento faithful a glimmer of hope after scoring his second goal for the club to make it 4-2. However, Roma were able to see out the match and hand the Serie A debutants another loss.
From there, Brignola continued to start and put in good performances, and in a match with a struggling Inter side, he could’ve easily put his side in the lead. However, opting to go solo on the counter attack instead of playing in Coda, it proved costly as he failed to score and it was a moment that could have changed the outcome of the match.
Up until now, the young Italian winger was mostly unheard of, but, the unknown factor is something that could be an advantage for Brignola. While he doesn’t have the star power that Milan youngster Patrick Cutrone has gained so quickly, having the ability to fly under the radar and grow as a player without too much scrutiny will go a long way in his growth as a player. Brignola will be able to perform without the stress of having to fulfill high expectations, other than those of De Zerbi, and be able to focus on establishing himself as future star in Italy.
Enrico Brignola definitely might not have the hype of other young forwards like Cutrone or Cengiz Ünder, but it doesn’t mean the Italian should be forgotten. His ability to get forward and involve himself in build up play is one of his strong points, however, his decision making and finishing will be things he needs to improve if he wants to be regarded as one of the next big things.
Whether he succeeds or not is yet to be seen, but, taking recent performances into account, little Brignola is definitely one to keep a close eye on.